Fraser Nelson

Who governs Britain? | 28 August 2010

Who governs Britain? | 28 August 2010
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CoffeeHousers may like to see the full leaked letter (pasted below) to which I referred in The Spectator's cover story this week. It shows how the NUT is using Freedom of Information to try and force school heads to hand over a list of names of anyone who might support a campaign to opt out of local authority control and become quasi-independent Academies. We have blacked out any information that may reveal the source. This letter helps explain why Michael Gove will have so few names next week, when he lists the list of schools who have succeeded in their fast-track application. Out of the 3,000 eligible, a few dozen will have made it. And those schools will likely be the grammars, or those who are well-versed in doing battle with their local authority and seeing off the union thugs. 

It's worth recapping why this is so important. Either Gove wins, or the rich will keep getting the best state schools. What keeps the poor down? A comprehensive schooling, which saves the best state education for those who can afford to live in the poshest areas. Once, Labour would have been outraged about this. But now, like the unions, they talk loudly about duty while pursuing the narrowest special interest agenda. The NUT are fighting to preserve a system where schools answer not to parents, or even the elected government, but to unions and bureaucrats. It is "who governs" question, and they want to keep their stranglehold over the state school system. They want to protect a system where only 18 teachers have been struck off for incompetence over 40 years. (Compare this to Washington DC, where 241 bad teachers were recently sacked in one day.) If unions felt so strongly, they could set up their own school, as they are doing in America. But their agenda is purely destructive. 

And do Academies work? Gove's department last week put out data on the City Acacemies set up under Labour. The proportion getting five decent GCSEs (ie, at A*-C grade including English & Maths) are, on average, improving by an extraordinary 7 percentage points, year-on-year. Last year it was 5 points, and even that was twice the national average of 2.5 points. A third of Academies have seen an increase of more than 15 percentage points. These are schools mainly in unposh areas – 23 percent of Academy pupils take free school meals, twice the national average, and a greater share of special needs kids.

Seldom has a social policy been so quickly vindicated. Independence works. So who would want to stop pupils getting better a education in an independent state school? The NUT, its local government allies and accomplices in parliament. The battle is on, and this NUT letter shows how it is being waged. The MSM tends not to care about a drama which is not taking place on the political stage of Westminster,  but we at CoffeeHouse will keep you regularly posted. The stakes could scarcely be higher.